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Back-in parking rule stands in Altoona's River Prairie development

Friday, June 15, 2018
Julian Emerson | Leader-Telegram

But violators won't be ticketed until changes are made to reduce driver confusion

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ALTOONA - A controversial back-in parking requirement in the River Prairie development will remain in place, but tickets for violators will not be issued until measures enabling motorists to better understand the rule are implemented. 

The Altoona City Council voted 4-3 Thursday to retain the back-in parking rules but to adopt changes intended to reduce driver confusion about the measure. The city will add double yellow lines, improve signage and post the $20 fine amount for violators at the site. Council members also agreed to no parking tickets for those not properly backing into parking spaces until those changes occur. 

"If we make those changes and educate the public, I think this can work," city Administrator Mike Golat said of the regulation requiring drivers to back into parking spaces.

The council reached its decision after divided debate about the topic. Councilmen Tim Sexton, Andrew Schlafer and Matthew Biren backed back-in parking while councilmen David Rowe, Dale Stuber and Red Hanks opposed it. Mayor Brendan Pratt broke the tie vote by supporting to retain it.

Doing away with back-in parking would have required spending $35,316 to remove the painted lines for those spaces. 

Pratt acknowledged concerns by some motorists about back-in parking but said most are getting used to it. 

"The more time goes on, the more people will understand it," he said. 

However, others said forcing drivers to back into spaces is less safe than traditional pull-in parking. The unusual regulation has upset people parking in River Prairie, they said. 

"I never thought this was a good idea," Rowe said. "If this is so great, why don't we see it in lots of other places?"

Altoona police Chief Jesse James said his department receives many complaints about back-in parking. Responding to parking violations will stretch his limited resources, he said, and will prove problematic as River Prairie becomes a popular site. 

"It is disorienting to people," he said of back-in parking. 

Of the 1,336 parking spaces available in the northwest quadrant of River Prairie that includes the park, just 234, or less than 20 percent, involve back-in parking, city planner Josh Clements said.

"There are other parking options at that site," he said. 

Sexton said he voted to retain the parking despite his opposition to it. 

"I'm totally against (back-in parking)," he said, "but I'm not going to spend $35,000 to remove those lines."

Contact: 715-830-5911,julian.emerson@ecpc.com

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